Loss of confidence seeps almost unnoticed into churches. And it’s hard to reverse – particularly when the tide is running against you in other ways.
My visit to the Aer Lingus/Knock issues yesterday reminds me of the days when the Irish Catholic Church had real confidence.
Monsignor James Horan was the administrator of the Marian Shrine at Knock – if you’ll forgive the pun – in a particularly God-forsaken part of Co Mayo. He decided to make it his objective to achieve a visit from Pope John Paul – which duly came about in 1979. At that point the Shrine became a Basilica. Not content with that, he next decided to establish an International Airport at Knock. By the exercise of all sorts of political wiles and a fair amount of bare-faced cheek, he achieved that in 1986 and Horan International Airport was duly opened. The New Ireland has diminished it to Ireland West Airport – Knock.
Mention of the Pope’s visit also reminds one of the remarkable Eamonn Casey, Bishop of Galway, who gathered thousands of young people to meet the Pope at Galway Racecourse. Casey had been one of the founders of Shelter during his time in London and he was a dynamic and charismatic individual by any standards. Sadly, some of his dynamism was misplaced and he was brought down by the revelation that he had fathered a child – a case of ‘Dougal – whatever you do, don’t mention Bishop Brennan’s son’
And the point of balance for the loss of confidence in a strange way proved to be that very same visit of the Pope – an extraordinary demonstration of the strength of Catholic Ireland and rapid decline from that moment onwards.
The Irish Times reports today that Ireland has built 249000 homes between 2001 and 2006. 248000 of them seem to be on the road up to Blogstead Na Mara. 12% of all houses in Donegal are holiday homes.